CCTEC’s Interact Club Displays Spirit of Giving

By: Ahmad Graves-El

Students at CCTEC stand with some of the gifts they helped collect for local children in need.
(Staff photo/ Ahmad Graves-El.)

BRIDGETON, N.J. — On Thursday, Dec. 12, students from the Cumberland County Technical Education Center (CCTEC), helped spread the spiritual message of Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men, by participating in their annual Toy Drive.

The school’s Interact Club once again collaborated with the local Salvation Army in Vineland to collect toys, games, clothes, blankets, and more, which were to be given to local children in need within our community.
“We’ve been doing the toy drive for the last seven years and it’s grown every year since we started,” said Sarah Bernhardt, geometry teacher and Interact Club co-advisor. “It was run through the student council organization at the old [CCTEC] before [being run by] the Interact Club Organization over here.”

She highlighted one of their key partners along the way, saying, “We’ve been working with the Salvation Army for a very long time.”

“It’s been awesome connecting with the Salvation Army because they need the toys and we have the people to help,” said Chloe Swift, senior at CCTEC and secretary of the Interact Club.

Beginning in November, students and staff throughout the school worked diligently to “purchase, collect, and organize the toys.”

“Miss Bernhardt and I are proud of our kids and this school,” said Tim Campbell, English teacher and co-advisor of the Interact Club. “While we [the Interact Club] sponsored this, it’s a school-wide event […] we were able to hand out 200 tags in 48 hours, and within two weeks, the entire school community came together with toys.”

The tags Campbell is referring to are known as “angel tags,” which can be found on a Salvation Army’s Angel Tree. According to the Salvation Army’s blog, “Angel Trees are decorated with numbered paper angel tags with the first name, age, and gender of a child in need of presents. Contributors remove one or more tags from the tree and purchase appropriate gifts for the child or children on the tags.”

Representatives with the Salvation Army in Vineland who were on hand with a van to collect all of the gifts were sincerely thankful for the Interact Club’s genuine efforts to help bring a little love and joy into the lives of local children.

“The lovely Sarah Bernhardt graciously came to us, learned about our program of the angel tags, and […] took on over 200 tags, which is a lot,” Aubrey Bonestell, case manager at the Salvation Army in Vineland explained. “She took on 200, she passed them out to her group, and they have fulfilled [the mission]. […] They did very well and we’re very, very appreciative of their generosity.”

“We’re just overwhelmed with the generosity of these young people,” Maj. Moises Rivera, commanding officer, Salvation Army, added. “If everyone acts and behaves and works as hard as these individuals have, the world will [look brighter].”

The voluntary acts of kindness and community service displayed by the high school students were not lost on CCTEC officials.

“You can see by the number of students that were just here to help load the [van] (which was about 40), probably four times the number of students donated toys,” Patty Robbins, assistant principal of CCTEC, said. “To have an entire school of students that have caring hearts speaks a lot about what happens in this building.”

“I just know that my contribution and everyone’s contribution is going to help a child on Christmas,” Swift said. “It’s just really humbling.”

The students, faculty, and staff who donated their time and effort to help make this event a success believe the children will be overjoyed when they receive their gifts.

However, there is a deeper message that Campbell hopes those children will glean during this holiday season.

“I hope they know that there are […] people out there who are thinking of them. And that we are, in every way, all in this together.”